Chapter 201
2021 -- S 0470 SUBSTITUTE A
Enacted 07/07/2021

A N   A C T

Introduced By: Senators Ciccone, Valverde, Lombardo, Euer, Calkin, Kallman, Acosta, DiMario, and Bell

Date Introduced: March 04, 2021

It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:
     SECTION 1. Title 2 of the General Laws entitled "AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY"
is hereby amended by adding thereto the following chapter:
     2-27-1. Statement of legislative purpose.
     (a) The general assembly recognizes that forest land in the state has many important values,
including, but not limited to,: clean air, clean water, economic importance, climate change
mitigation, habitat, and supporting human health and well-being. Forest land should be maintained
to meet Rhode Island’s aggressive climate change goals through carbon sequestration and storage.
Core forest land and connecting natural areas should be conserved to prevent ongoing
fragmentation of the state’s forests. Moreover, forest conservation is necessary to protect and
maintain water quality and important wildlife habitat. It is in the best interest of the people that the
state identify and acquire the development rights to core and unfragmented forests so as to maintain
these important forest values for future generations. Moreover, the state must develop incentives to
encourage private forest land owners to maintain forests and to enhance urban and community
forestry ecosystems that provide collective benefits to people and wildlife, including filter filtering
air and water, control controlling storm water, conserve conserving energy, and a myriad of
additional critical benefits.
     (b) The general assembly finds that forest land is being converted to other uses because its
current development value far exceeds its economic value to individual private landowners as
forest; that forest land is an important part of the state's economy, environment, and quality of life;
and that forests provide important economic opportunities for many people living in the rural
portions of the state. Whereas most of the development value of forests accrue to the private
landowner, many of the economic benefits of retaining forests are also public benefits, some of
which are not often quantified. All of this serves to undervalue forests without proper mechanisms
and tools to account for public services and cost savings provided by private forests.
     (c) Therefore, the general assembly establishes a forest conservation commission to be
coordinated and staffed by the department of environmental management to implement the
following objectives:
     (1) Assess and recommend new funding sources to conserve forest land across the forest
continuum of rural to urban landscapes;
     (2) Identify incentives to encourage forest landowners to maintain and manage their land
and preserve forest values;
     (3) Encourage forest conservation as a means to sequester carbon and mitigate climate
change and maintain the numerous other benefits provided by forests;
     (4) Help to increase and create new markets for Rhode Island forest products to store
carbon long-term and create new jobs;
     (5) Assess impediments to the expansion of the Rhode Island forest products industry and
recommend changes to remove impediments;
     (6) Assess means to encourage the improvement and expansion of urban and community
forestry; and
     (7) Coordinate and seek input from key stakeholders to identify other science-based
initiatives to promote the conservation of Rhode Island forestland.
     2-27-2. Definitions.
     As used in this chapter;
     (1) “Department” means the department of environmental management.
     (2) "Director" means the director of the department of environmental management, unless
otherwise specified.
     (3) "Forest-based business" means the inclusion of all the activities that go into harvesting
forest products and turning them into usable products. These businesses include foresters, loggers,
and truckers who manage, harvest, and transport raw materials and the companies that turn these
raw materials into usable products for purchase in a variety of markets.
     (4) "Forest conservation commission" or "commission" means the commission established
pursuant to § 2-27-3.
     (5) "Forest fragmentation" means the breaking of large, contiguous, forested areas into
smaller pieces of forest; typically, these pieces are separated by roads, utility corridors,
subdivisions, or other human development.
     (6) "Forest land" means any tract or contiguous tracts of land, ten (10) acres or larger
bearing a dense growth of trees, including any underbrush, and having either the quality of self-
perpetuation, or being dependent upon its development by the planting and replanting of trees in
stands of closely growing timber.
     (7) "Forest management" means the focus on managing vegetation, restoring ecosystems
and habitat, reducing hazards, and maintaining forest health for a desired outcome.
     (8) "Fund" means the forest land conservation fund established pursuant to § 2-27-6.
     2-27-3. Forest conservation commission.
     (a)(1) There is established the forest conservation commission consisting of the directors
of the department of environmental management and the department of administration, or their
respective designees; and nine (9) public members to be appointed by the director of the department
of environmental management. The public appointees shall include at least one member with
knowledge or experience in forestry,; one member with knowledge or experience with urban and
community forestry,; one member familiar with land use and community planning issues,; one
member active in land preservation,; one member representing forest landowners,; one member
representing an environmental organization,; one member with knowledge of forest habitat; and
one member representing a forest products business. No person shall be eligible for appointment
pursuant to this section unless he or she is a resident of this state.
     (2) The members shall serve for terms of five (5) years each; provided, however, that of
the members first appointed, one shall serve for one year, one shall serve for two (2) years, one
shall serve for three (3) years, one shall serve for four (4) years, and the remaining members shall
serve for five (5) years, from January first next succeeding their appointment, as the director shall
     (3) Any vacancy occurring otherwise than by expiration of term shall be filled in the same
manner as the original appointment.
     (4) Upon expiration of a member's term, that member shall continue as a member until that
member's successor is appointed and qualified. Any person serving a term shall be eligible for
     (5) (b) No member, including ex officio members, shall receive compensation for the
performance of his or her duties as a member; provided, however, that each appointed member may
be reimbursed if funds are appropriated for his or her actual and necessary expenses incurred during
the performance of his or her official duties.
     (6) (c) (1) The commission shall designate annually from its members a chairperson and a
vice chairperson.
     (7) (2) Whenever public hearings are required under this chapter, or whenever the
commission determines a public hearing is appropriate, the commission shall use reasonable efforts
to hold those hearings at a place or places that will reasonably accommodate the interested parties.
     (8) (3) Seven (7) voting members of the commission shall constitute a quorum for the
transaction of any business or the exercise of any power of the commission. Except as otherwise
provided in this chapter, the commission shall have the power to act by a majority of the members
present at any meeting at which a quorum is in attendance.
     (9) (d) The director may remove any member for cause or misconduct in office after giving
him or her a copy of the charges against him or her and an opportunity to be heard, in person or by
counsel, in his or her defense, upon not less than ten (10) days’ notice. If any member shall be
removed, the director shall file in the office of the secretary of state a complete statement of charges
made against the member and his or her findings, together with a complete record of the
     (10) (e) The director shall have the authority to establish subcommittees to fulfill the
purposes of the commission. The subcommittee members shall be advisory to the commission and
shall be comprised of key stakeholders representative of the issue(s) to be addressed.
     2-27-4. Powers of commission.
     The commission has the power to:
     (1) Retain by contract or employ counsel, auditors, engineers, appraisers, private
consultants and advisors, or other personnel needed to provide necessary services;
     (2) Request the assistance of staff from the department or other state agencies on an as-
needed basis;
     (3) Accept gifts, grants, or loans of funds, or services from any source, public or private,
and comply, subject to the provisions of this chapter, with the terms and conditions thereof;
     (4) Accept from a federal agency loans or grants for use in carrying out its purposes and
enter into agreement with an agency respecting those loans or grants; and
     (5) Otherwise do all things necessary for the performance of its duties, the fulfillment of
its obligations, and the conduct of its business.
     2-27-5. Duties of the commission.
     The commission shall:
     (1) Develop the criteria necessary for defining the most important forest land under this
     (2) Make a reasonably accurate inventory of all land in the state that meets the definition
of forest land;
     (3) Inform the public, public officials, and other citizens and interested persons of the
provisions of this chapter; and
     (4) Make recommendations to the director of the department of environmental management
regarding disbursements from the forest land conservation fund.
     2-27-6. Forest land conservation fund.
     (a) There is hereby established a forest land conservation fund.
     (b) The fund may be utilized for purposes consistent with this chapter.
     (c) The fund shall consist of the following sources:
     (1) Sums the legislature may appropriate;
     (2) Monies received from federal, state, or other sources, including bond funds;
     (3) Monies received from any other sources including from any private donor for the fund;
     (4) Any interest earned on the monies in the fund.
     2-27-7. Severability.
     If any provisions of this chapter or of any rule, regulation, or order made under this chapter,
or the application of this chapter to any person or circumstances, is held invalid by a court of
competent jurisdiction, the remainder of this chapter, rule, regulation, or order, and the application
of that provision to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected. The invalidity of any
section or sections or parts of any section or sections of this chapter shall not affect the validity of
the remainder of this chapter, and it is declared to be the legislative intent that this chapter would
have been enacted if those invalid parts had not been included in this chapter.
     SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon passage.
LC002318/SUB A